By R.S. Errol
Monterey County, California – Corruption doesn’t always start out with malice towards all. Sometimes a mistake is innocent in nature but for some unknown reason the errant person rationalizes that the advantages out measure the risks. Then again on other occasions the perpetrator feels that they are privileged or superior to their victim(s) or they are of a divine right to conduct business to their advantage regardless of the rules and regulations that are established to restrain this behavior. After reading volumes of evidence consisting of court transcripts, letters to and from court and government officials I am of the opinion that the arrogance that permeates the venue that Gene Forte finds himself in is of the deliberate with malice, toward a select target(s) type of venue.
The scene of this story changes from the attorneys’ offices to the courtroom that most reasonable people think is awash in truth, integrity and justice. That impression will fade from the readers’ minds when they become exposed to the duplicitous conduct of the Monterey County Superior Court judges. Thomas Jefferson once asked, “Where is the check on the judiciary?” I think that is the number one question that is on Forte’s mind during these trying times. It is my desire that the readers will be asking the same question at the end of this story.
The first incursion into the Monterey Superior Court by Forte sets the tone for what is to follow over the next five years. Gene Forte is sued by his former attorney Loretta Loop in small claims court for fees rendered in the beginning of the Forte vs. Powell case in 1999. You may recall from last months column Forte paid Loop a retainer and when their relationship ended Eugene discovered that Loop never answered interrogatories from the Horan Law Firm thereby causing sanctions to be filed against Forte, causing him to be fined $700 by Judge Richard Silver for impeding discovery. Loop had the unmitigated gall to bill Forte an additional fee when she never completed the task at hand with the interrogatories. So Loop vs. Forte commences in early 2001. Forte responds by filing a lawsuit Forte vs. Loop in Superior Court charging malpractice against Loop. The case is assigned to Commissioner Richard Rutledge who you will recall was the person who ruled against Gene in the small claims action in 1997. In that case Rutledge ruled in favor of the plaintiff who did not appear at the trial. Due to this absurd ruling Forte had the presence of mind to file a Challenge for Cause since it was obvious that Rutledge was prejudice against Forte. Attached to the Challenge were several exhibits including a letter Forte had written to several Monterey Judicial Officers alleging that Commissioner Rutledge and Judge Robert Moody had violated the law in 1997. Rutledge disqualified himself due to his involvement in Loop vs. Forte, a good thing, most people would agree, for Forte.
Entering into this melodrama would be Judge Robert O’Farrell the supervising judge for Superior court to disprove that notion. As supervising judge, Judge O’Farrell is responsible for managing the master civil calendar for civil matters. This is an important note to remember as the story unfolds because O’Farrell assigns the judges to hear particular cases before the court. O’Farrell, prior to commencing the trial would be privy to the Challenge for Cause with its attachments. Somehow Forte gets the feeling that O’Farrell took exception to a citizen taking umbrage with the judiciary. Could it be that judges think themselves to be of a higher echelon since they sit in judgment of the common man?
Normally, when there is a small claims action in conjunction with a cross complaint in a higher court the small claim is adjoined to the complaint. Not so in O’Farrell’s domain. O’Farrell ruled for Loop in the small claims action then treated the complaint as an appeal instead of a stand alone case, thereby prejudicing Forte for the first time.
Forte, staying true to form asks the court to reconsider O’Farrell’s decision and Judge Richard Silver reversed the order and consolidated the two cases together. Assuming O’Farrell did indeed review the Challenge of Cause and the supporting documents was this the reason O’Farrell tried to deny Forte the right to present Loop’s alleged malpractice as his defense to Loop’s claims for additional fees? A reasonable person would surely agree to this analysis. Apparently Judge Richard Silver did. Judge O’Farrell, reacting in 2002, launched the case into a black hole by taking it off the calendar.
Larry Lichtenegger has been Forte’s attorney of record in this case since March of 2000, and has become totally immersed in it. Forte informs him prior to the trial that the one judge he did not want to hear the case was Judge Terrance Duncan. Judge O’Farrell assigns the case, by some rare coincidence, to Judge Terrance Duncan the same judge who began the investigation into Commissioner Rutledge’s and Judge Moody’s bazaar rulings against Forte in the Packwood vs. Forte small claims action a few years earlier. Duncan discovered that Packwood was his next door neighbor three weeks into his investigation. In any event Duncan knew about Forte’s judicial activism prior to his selection as the presiding judge. In addition, Duncan was a judge in the Monterey Criminal department and did not hear civil cases, with some exceptions that are becoming obvious.
While Lichtenegger represented Forte he voluntarily revealed some of the dirty secrets concerning the Monterey Superior court regarding “manipulating trial dates and sabotaging motions” during a phone conversation that Forte legally recorded. Thereby, Lichtenegger unceremoniously exposed the corruption and arrogance that Forte had intuitively known all along. Little did Gene suspect, from the onset, the sabotage that Lichtenegger was undertaking against his client in a well orchestrated conspiracy with other attorneys to drain Forte of his assets as Forte now alleges due to hindsight. In early 2001, Lichtenegger attempted to withdraw as Forte’s attorney stating that Judge Richard Silver was seething at Lichtenegger because he was representing Forte. Gene opposed the motion and revealed to Silver the true motives and statements by Lichtenegger. Fighting fire with fire is both a defensive and offensive strategy that sometimes must be employed. Judge Silver immediately recused himself and actually scheduled O’Farrell to hear the motion in five days time. He did this in such a fashion that it was transparent that he and O’Farrell had preplanned this continuance. Forte is very much aware of O’Farrell’s bias toward him and was waiting for the other shoe to drop.
The next week O’Farrell, as if on cue, allows Lichtenegger out of the case, one month prior to the commencement of the damage portion of the Forte vs. Powell case, without addressing any of the scandalous allegations made by Lichtenegger to Forte as they were related by Forte to Silver. This thread of conduct connects the dots of the puzzle and reveals the onset of alleged criminal activity. O’Farrell actions from here on out are baffling to even the most naïve court observer. A week later in a mid March 2001, hearing of Forte vs. Powell, Judge O’Farrell allows the defense counsel James Cook of the Horan Law Firm to launch a scurrilous attack on Forte in court, denies Forte the right to respond to conflicting statements by Cook, states that he sees no reason why he, O’Farrell, should recuse himself simply because he, O’Farrell is a friend of the defendants (waves to the Powell’s from the bench) and literally tries to extort Forte by offering a continuance of the trial, in order for Forte to find another attorney, if Gene agrees to release a “lis pendens” from Powell’s property (Lis pendens according to Black’s Law 6th Ed., “Jurisdiction, power, of control which courts acquire over property in litigation pending action and until final judgment.”). The rhetorical question begging to be asked is what was O’Farrell’s reasoning for pressuring Forte to release the property? O’Farrell also informs Forte that he did not issue subpoenas as per Forte’s request because O’Farrell thought Gene “may be harassing people.” Wouldn’t a reasonable person consider this behavior to be another prejudgment by the judge? Once Lichtenegger is released as attorney of record Gene proceeds to prosecute the litigation in Propria Persona (Black’s Law 6th Ed: “In one’s own proper person”).
O’Farrell’s modus operandi (he wasn’t the judge assigned to this hearing of Forte vs. Crabb, Forte vs. Powell in late March 2001) is to stifle Forte’s discovery in both cases at every turn. Forte’s deposition of the Powell’s is limited to 45 minutes each, he is ordered to pay for a Special Master and the cost of a videographer for this deposition because James Cook thought it would be unpleasant for the Powell’s and (nota bene) Forte was not an attorney. How do you spell d-i-s-i-n-g-e-n-u-o-u-s and c-o-n-d-e-s-c-e-n-d-i-n-g? Then again Forte is not a member of the exclusive club administering justice. Is this yet another example of O’Farrell’s prejudice toward Forte?
In the next episode I will relay to you Judge Robert O’Farrell’s continuing persecution of Gene Forte and set the stage for what may be the next coming of Operation Greylord, a FBI sting in the 1980’s that uncovered over 92 public officials in judicial corruption. Again, stay tuned. You are encouraged to read some of the transcripts and evidence on Gene Forte’s website: www.attorneybusters.com.